Indonesia is proposing joint maritime patrols with Malaysia and the Philippines to counter a murderous Islamic extremist group which claims ties to Islamic State.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s call for greater cooperation in maritime security follows a surge in piracy and kidnappings of local seafarers and westerners by Abu Sayyaf.
The extremist group, which claims ties to Islamic State, has defied decades of attempts by the US-backed Philippine military to eradicate it, the Wal;l Street Journal reports.
On Monday, the group beheaded a Canadian kidnap victim.
“We can’t let this continue,” the Indonesian leader said, announcing a meeting of the three countries’ foreign ministers and top military commanders this week in Jakarta.
He said they would try to establish combined patrols of the Sulu Sea and other southern Philippine waters where Abu Sayyaf operates.
The governments of the Philippines and Malaysia did not immediately comment on the proposal.
The countries each conduct patrols of their own territorial waters but haven’t carried out joint patrols before.
Abu Sayyaf, based in the jungles of the Philippines’ southwestern islands, is one of the most extreme militant groups operating in the region.
It claims to be fighting for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate across the Muslim regions of Southeast Asia.
The group has proven tenacious and could become a bridgehead for Islamic State in Southeast Asia, some security analysts say.
“Islamic State has its eyes on the Philippines,” said Richard Javad Heydarian, a security expert at Manila’s De La Salle University, adding that it would like to establish “a distant caliphate in Mindanao,” the Philippines’ main southern island with a Muslim-majority population.
Heydarian said a new defense pact between Washington and Manila under which US forces will soon gain access to an air base on Mindanao could prove vital to combating Abu Sayyaf.
The US also recently launched a US$425 million Southeast Asian Maritime Security Initiative designed to boost the patrol and surveillance capabilities of countries in the region.
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